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Captain Phillips
  • Composed by Henry Jackman
  • Varèse Sarabande / 2013 / 44m

The rescue of an American container ship and its crew from the hands of Somali pirates was the subject of one of 2013’s more critically acclaimed blockbusters, Captain Phillips, from Paul Greengrass and starring Tom Hanks.  Greengrass has enticed some fine scores from John Powell in the past – while the relationship has reportedly been somewhat strained on their last couple of projects together, the resulting music has been excellent.  With Powell on hiatus during 2013, the director turned instead to Henry Jackman, one of Hans Zimmer’s team at Remote Control.  Jackman is the sole credited composer on the album cover and two others, Al Clay and Jack Dolman are given “additional music” credit; but reportedly the scoring process was a nightmare and a large team – including Zimmer himself – were involved in countless rewrites.

There’s more than an occasional hint of Powell about the music that resulted – the percussion of the early action piece “This is Not a Drill” could easily have come from the man himself – there are frequent hints of Green Zone and Powell’s “The End” from United 93 was actually tracked in to the film, echoes here and there also of the more percussive parts of Zimmer’s Inception (yes, even a synthetic rendition of the now-hilarious HORN OF DOOM here and there to guarantee the audience being taken completely away from the film).  Surprisingly, after the painful process that went into its creation, the music is really rather basic and feels like it’s at the lowest end of what you might expect in a film like this – an endless stream of percussion, sampled strings, occasional ethnic wind solos, synthetic horn pads that fade in and out.  The depth of Powell’s music for Greengrass is nowhere in evidence, and it’s what’s missing here that emphasises why he is easily better than anyone else to have emerged from Zimmer’s tutelage – it’s not just the things you can throw together in the computer, it’s the emotional and dramatic sense that makes a proper film score.  This collection of drumming serves its basic purpose, but film music can do so much more than that.  The album is listenable enough when the energy levels are high but even then it sounds like what might be dismissed as filler on a John Powell album and frankly most of it feels like fairly aimless drone.  The finale, “Safe Now”, is a take-off of Inception‘s “Time” which is so barely disguised it’s actually rather funny.  A big disappointment.

Rating: * 1/2 | |

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  1. Sean (Reply) on Tuesday 17 March, 2015 at 04:09

    Hi! I pretty much agree with this review here. I found it very listenable, fun for jogging to, and tracks like “Second Attack,” “This is Not a Drill,” and “High Speed Maneuvers” are great. Ultimately though, it does seem like Greengrass kind of said “I couldn’t get Powell for this one, so make something Powell-ey.” I think that at least it worked well in the film. Do you have any weblinks to your reports about the troubled process of scoring “Captain Phillips” and/or the strife between Powell and Greengrass?